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Time to Refocus

My adventures in homebrewing started with a bang and slowly fizzled – or quickly gushed.

My first batch – a Brooklyn Brew Shop IPA kit – was a success. My equipment was spanking new and therefore clean. It was a great day of brewing with my Brother in Law. The temperature in my house was just under 70, which was good for the US 05 yeast. We drank our IPA and patted ourselves on our backs. This homebrewing thing is easy.

 

Our second batch was a smoked wheat – which is not always available. Another fun brew day, but we ran in to problems quickly. We used a thinner mash, drank more while brewing, and the weather was warming up. I tried a lot of new techniques on this batch – like fermenting in a bucket of cold water – which makes it hard to pinpoint a single point of error. The beer was not bad, drinkable, but all the changes made me wonder if it was our fault it wasn’t delicious or if I just didn’t like the style. My BIL loved it, so I will chalked this batch up to my tastes, but in the back of my mind, I failed somewhere.

 

Three strikes and I was out. The third batch was a failure – all gushers. The brewing seemed to go much better – except I did try to do an infusion mash instead of just pouring over which resulted in a mess. We also topped off with tap water. It was the peak of summer and unbelievably hot – which was not good for fermentation. This was the first recipe not from a kit. I think the failure was primarily due to poor sanitation. I am lazy to wash my bottles after drinking, so they sit for months before I brew. I am also lazy to clean in general. I got lazy and sloppy and paid the price for it.

 

The third batch disappointed me. Not cleaning was the real problem but I blamed it on summer. I stopped brewing. I decided I needed a mash tun (cooler) and a wine fridge to convert to a fermentation chamber. Not wanting to spend the money, I never got back in to brewing.

It has been some time now since I brewed and I have been reading BYO and Zymurgy again. I am refocused. I know I don’t need any more equipment, but more dedication to cleaning. If I am going to do it, I need to stop cutting corners and go all in. I also need to brew beers like Saison in the summer when it is too hot to ferment anything else. I read an article the other day where the author said “if you’re like me you have experienced a batch ruined by infection.” This made me feel so much better. Yes, I slacked on cleaning. But. infection can hit even those who try their best to prevent it. It happens to the best of us, but way more frequently to the lazy of us. 

 

I will stop being lazy and start getting my brew on!

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Homebrewing

Bottling Day: I’m a Cool Parent.

It has been two weeks and is now time to bottle my IPA. After reading all the horror stories about bottling, I figured that I should invest in a mini auto-siphon and a bottle wand instead of using a racking cane and hose clamp. Small batch brewing makes bottling a breeze too. 7-10 12oz bottles takes no time at all. And all the time spent sterilizing and cleaning is made fun by having my brother in law and a six pack with me.

BottlingDay

Beer transferred to my bottling pot filled with honey.

We dissolved 3 tbsp of honey in 1/2 cup of water and transferred the beer to the pot. The siphon and wand made it smooth and bubble free – no splashing! From the pot we got 7 bottles of beer. We tasted some of the beer left in the pot and it was not bad! Warm and flat but no obvious flaws – which I have been worrying about because of the high fermentation temperatures. The beer was fermenting in the carboy in the pot – so if it blew off it wouldn’t make a mess. The metal was cold and I think this helped keep the temperature of the beer lower than the temperature in the room.

My wife and I stopped by Applebee’s to pick up a party platter of wings for our party. My wife was in the passenger seat holding my carboy of beer. The girl who came out to the car saw it and asked what it was. I explained today is bottling day and this was our homebrew. After a few questions, she told us that homebrewing seemed like something single people would do, but we were married and the car seat in the back meant we had a kid. “You’re cool parents” she told us. Glad other people know it. Now to make sure my son never forgets it!

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